Stick a pin in a sales droid to avoid cable voodoo

How long is a piece of wire? Remember: size doesn't matter

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On-Call In this week's edition of On-Call, our weekly wander through readers' reminiscences, we're indebted to reader Shannon who's shared a tale of his late 1990s experience working in “a small-ish computer sales and repair shop.”

“This was when things were booming in the custom-built computer market,” Shannon explains. “Western Digital had just released a 2.1 gigabyte IDE hard drive and the first generation of Monster 3D cards were all the rage.”

One of Shannon's customers was a professional photographer, a nice guy to work with and – best of all – sent plenty of repeat business his way. This customer's latest purchase was “a very nice, very expensive 35mm film scanner to go along with his rocket ship of a computer. He then purchased a top-of-the-line 24 bit colour flatbed scanner. As was the norm, it ran from a dedicated SCSI card. We got it all set up in the shop, ran several tests, then boxed it all up and he took it home.”

Where it didn't work.

“He brought it back, we hooked it up on the counter and it worked,” Shannon recalls. “He took it back home, it didn't work.”

The shop's lowest-ranking techie was despatched for a visit. He couldn't get it working either.

“We then sent out the second-highest ranking tech, along with the sales droid that sold him the stuff. Neither of them could get it to work.”

Shannon was working late while all this was happening, so when his personal cellphone rang and the store's owner asked him to visit the customer he was grumpy, but understood the urgency of the situation.

“I was the top ranked (and head) tech, so being sent out after-hours on a call was a sign that management was trying to make good on a sale of an expensive bit of kit that we wouldn't be able to shift if we had to take it back.”

Half an hour of driving later, Shannon showed up and found his sales colleague “elbow deep in the three-page 'quick start' manual.” Thankfully the customer's sunny disposition was intact.

Shannon spotted the problem in ten seconds.

“The scanner had shipped with a three-foot, 25 pin SCSI cable. However, the scanner was a good 8 feet away from the computer, at the end of the customer's desk. I plopped the scanner on the chair, hooked up the 3 foot cable to it, and it worked like a charm. I then fished out the extension cable the customer had used (upsetting him greatly, it had taken him quite awhile to get it run behind the desk), and explained that he had used a cheap printer extension cable. It didn't bring all 25 pins out, only the ones used by the printer.”

“He then gave the sales droid the sort of withering look that spurned wives corner the market on, and asked why he'd been sold the wrong cable...”

Shannon 'installed' the cable himself, wouldn't hear of taking payment for it and scored a tip from the customer for his troubles.

“Those were the days,” Shannon says.

We're not sure many would agree that cable capers of that sort are something they would miss. If you've a similar tale of cable madness, or other off-site adventures, write to me. ®

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